Belfast Telegraph

Ryanair is flying, but O'Leary refuses to get carried away

By John-Paul Ford Rojas

Ryanair has raised its full-year profits guidance after more than doubling first-quarter earnings and setting out aggressive plans for expansion in Europe.

Chief executive Michael O'Leary said it was "overrun with growth offers" from airports on the continent as rivals scaled back operations.

But he warned against "irrational exuberance" as the second half of the financial year was likely to see downward pressure on fares as a result of competition and Ryanair's increased capacity. Shares opened 5% higher.

Profits after tax for the Dublin- carrier in the first quarter to June 30 were up 152% to €197m (£156m) though Mr O'Leary said this was distorted by Easter not being in the same period last year.

The carrier said more passengers, fuller flights and shaved costs meant full-year earnings were now expected at €620-€650m (£491-£514m), up from €580-€620m (£459-£491m).

For the first quarter, passenger numbers were up 4% to 24.3m on planes that were 86% full after a rise in load factor of 4%.

Revenues were up 11% to €1.34bn (£1.06bn) as fares rose 9%, after being boosted by a strong Easter.

Mr O'Leary said four new bases at Athens, Brussels, Lisbon and Rome were "performing strongly" with new bases due to open this winter at Cologne, Gdansk, Warsaw and Glasgow.

New routes and frequencies at Stansted and Dublin are due to increase "substantially" while there will be more investment to make routes attractive to business.

Mr O'Leary added: "We are overrun with growth offers from primary European airports whose incumbent flag and regional carriers continue to cut capacity and traffic.

"These new airports along with our existing 69 bases offer Ryanair significant growth opportunities as the first of our 180 new Boeing order delivers this September."

A new business service will be launched in September.

The carrier plans to return €520m (£411m) via a special dividend to shareholders in the fourth quarter.

Mr O'Leary said that it was clear the firm is on track for a strong first half.

"However, we would strongly caution both analysts and investors against any irrational exuberance in what continues to be a difficult economic environment, with some company-specific challenges in H2," he added.

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